The Secret To Marketing Success On Facebook? Advertise Like Your Grandfather

A new study of Facebook ads shows that what’s old school is new school again.

The Secret To Marketing Success On Facebook? Advertise Like Your Grandfather

A new study by Facebook brings some big news that, curiously, at first blush might not seem like much news at all. It’s this: If you want to create successful ads for the social network, just do the same thing you would do if you were advertising on TV. Or in magazines. Or on the radio.


But here’s the thing: Until now, Sean Bruich, head of measurement at Facebook, tells Fast Company, marketers have been unsure about how, exactly, to advertise on the social network. It’s a new medium, and a whole conventional wisdom has emerged about do’s and don’ts, telling brands they need to interact differently with consumers on Facebook than they have in other forms of media. Be conversational, for example, or be interactive.

And as a result, some advertisers have thrown out the book on how to create a great campaigns in the hopes of unearthing some new formula that works uniquely well on the new medium.

“Marketers were asking us, ‘Are the fundamentals of advertising on Facebook the same as the fundamentals elsewhere?'” Bruich says. The results of the study point to yes, he says, and that means “the experience they’ve built up over the years and the instincts they’ve had can be applied to making more successful ads on Facebook.”

Bruich is presenting the results of the study in a paper called “What Traditional Principles Matter When Designing Social” at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Audience Measurement 7.0 conference today.

The study had professional marketers evaluate 400 Facebook ads against six traditional criteria for advertising creative: Whether the ad has a focal point, how strong its brand link is (ie: how easy it was to identify who the advertiser was), how well the tone of the ad fits with the brand’s personality, how noticeable the ad is, how effective it is at getting its point across, and whether there is a “reward” for reading it (ie: Did it make you feel good? Did you learn something?).

Then the study looked at how well the ads performed, using two traditional advertising measures: ad recall and purchase intent.


The study found that the ads that performed best were the ones that also did the best job of hewing to advertising fundamentals, especially focal point, brand link, and tone. The most important criteria, says Bruich, was that the ad needed to have some kind of reward. (For more on this, see below.)

That it should be news that advertisers should follow time-tested principles when advertising in newfangled media highlights how confusing social media has been for many marketers.

“With any new medium, we focus on the differences,” Bruich says. “But some of those core aspects of being successful in marketing–how to clearly communicate your value proposition, how to communicate new information to the consumer–those are not changing.”

E.B. Boyd is’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter | Google+ | Email

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E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.